A close look at how Scenario Development Sprints can help you envision where the world (and your category) could go in the next three years — and what immediate steps you can take to address these various new futures.
Brands have always had to deal with uncertainty and change. Consumer preferences evolve. New technologies create new competition. But the degree of unpredictability facing businesses today — brought on by a global pandemic, an economic recession, a racial justice movement, and more — is unprecedented. More than any time in recent memory, standard playbooks don’t apply.
The brands that stand the best chance to survive and thrive in the months and years to come will be those with the ability to react swiftly to a wide range of possible scenarios. Thankfully, there’s a way to prepare for the possible twists and turns ahead: Strategic Foresight. And within the practice of Strategic Foresight, there’s a quick-start tool brands can use to become more future attuned: Scenario Development Sprints. In this post, we’ll cover what they are and how our Cultural Insights team can help you use them to your advantage.
Addressing new features with strategic foresights
Research is often used to dissect and understand the past. Strategic foresight, however, holds that it’s more interesting and useful to think about where things are heading. One of the key goals of the practice is to help brands shift from predictions based on old patterns to new — and sometimes previously unimaginable — contingencies.
It’s an idea that’s never been more important. And it’s never been more challenging to accomplish. The disruption our society is facing has made it nearly impossible to answer key questions regarding the impact of rapid cultural shifts on businesses. That’s why our team has developed a new approach to strategic planning that helps brands begin to understand and anticipate what might happen, what they want to happen, and a fuller range of what could happen.
Enter scenario development sprints
What’s plausible today probably seemed inconceivable six months ago. But brands who dive deep into all possible outcomes can better face the future — even in turbulent times. During a Scenario Development Sprint, we brainstorm about how a brand can capitalize on the “what ifs” by exploring brand-specific scenarios that are plausible, relevant to brand mission, and that challenge stakeholders to reimagine and reinvent.
When considering different scenarios, we’ll create a macro trend scan that provides an overview of cultural forces impacting the future of your domain.
For example: What cultural shifts are emerging from current crises? What societal opportunities or issues will arise that businesses can tap into? What new consumer values will be prevalent across the board, or in key target segments? How relevant is pre-COVID knowledge about culture and trends?
- Provides strategy and innovation teams with a powerful set of inputs that transcend traditional consumer insights.
- Focuses on creating plausible narratives of how the future might unfold.
- Mobilizes action by making the range of potential futures more concrete, allowing us to have a wider range of strategic conversation.
The right steps
There are four key steps in each Scenario Development Sprint:
- Define brand values: First, we align on your brand’s domain and goals/values, and pinpoint key uncertainties and hypotheses.
- Map out uncertainties: Next, we dig deeper into established and potential uncertainties, identify and define wider-scale opportunities and threats, and lay the groundwork for seed scenarios.
- Envision the future: Using the seed scenarios as our inspiration, we then co-create and revise four fully fleshed out future scenarios.
- Act: Finally, we brainstorm new strategies and tactics to help your brand survive the next few months and the next few years.
Then what? Future-proofing your brand
For brands interested in a more rigorous, end-to-end solution, there’s Futureproofing — a multiphase, mixed method approach that incorporates Cultural Insights and Experience Innovation to generate and refine specific, future-facing opportunity areas for your company or enterprise.
Once we’ve defined the various opportunity areas your business should pursue in the short and long term, we’ll define immediate steps you can take to futureproof your brand, plus discover fresh opportunities, new markets, and necessary internal transformations.
For many of us, 2020 has been the worst year ever, so let’s look to 2021 and beyond. Get in touch to let our team of experts help you get started.